It was December, 2015.
I’d never approached the holidays on such shaky ground. We pulled out the decorations and sipped hot cider while Christmas songs spilled from our favorite holiday Pandora station. If you’d seen us through the windows of our home, it was likely the warm, sugary image of holiday perfection. But tears streaked my cheeks while I hung ornaments on the tree, and I never was able to stem the flow as the magnitude of entering the Christmas season while parenting a child I could lose to the legal system made me painfully aware of firsts and lasts. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. We’d said yes to opening our home but didn’t realize that our yes also included opening our hearts to absolute risk.
The Christmas season was supposed to be full of hope and excitement.
But for us, it was laden with fear.
Somewhere between decorating the tree after Thanksgiving and opening gifts on Christmas morning, I felt the Lord drawing me to choose joy in the midst of our unknown. I read Psalm 4 on one of those cold, December mornings, and the words nearly jumped off the page as they soaked into my bones and lodged themselves down deep in my heart. “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and new wine abound. I will both lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, LORD, make me to live in safety.” (Ps.4:7-8)
Joy isn’t the physical abundance of possessions or busy social calendars. Joy is found in the Lord; it is anchored in the never-changing, soul-safe character of God. When we root our definition of joy in Christ, we can purpose to rest our heads on God’s goodness because the source of our joy isn’t an outcome or a guarantee. It’s a Person—a Person who will never leave or forsake us, who will keep our hearts safe no matter the crumbling ground beneath our feet. In the clearest version of sacrifice we’ll ever see, Jesus left the safety of heaven and became the helpless infant in the manger. He risked His reputation, His name, His life to give us Himself. We might sing lullabies about the serenity of the manger scene, but it probably looked a lot like risk and fear to the people present.
Joy is wrapped up in the person of Christ, and when He is the source of our deep fulfillment, then risky living can be endured and heads can be laid on the pillow at night without fear.Joy is found in the Lord; it is anchored in the never-changing, soul-safe character of God. Click To Tweet
Christmas is different for us now. We confidently decorated the tree with both of our forever children. We feel the happy emotions that we often attach to the word joy, but I will never forget the memories of that Christmas when choosing to let my soul be satisfied in Jesus in the midst of unfathomable sorrow still gave me real, purposeful joy.
If your holiday season is brimming with grief or fear rather than hope and cheer this year, please believe me when I say it is possible to have joy in the midst of sorrow. Anchor your hope in Jesus, not your circumstances, knowing that He is with you. It’s why He came the way that He did. It’s why He came at all.
To be with us, to rescue us.
God with us.